In April, PREMIUM TIMES ran a series exposing corruption and fraud at the Lagos State University, LASU. The first story, published on April 6, revealed that a top professor at the University and former executive secretary of the National University Commission (NUC) falsified his age.
Documents sent to this newspaper by an anonymous whistleblower revealed that Mr Okebukola, who is a professor of science education at the university, has three dates of birth – February 17, 1949; February 17, 1948; or February 17, 1951. He used the dates interchangeably to manipulate the system several times during his career.
The document also revealed that the university management was aware of this anomaly but, in clear violation of its own rules, refused to sanction Mr Okebukola.
In fact, the documents revealed that the LASU’s Vice-Chancellor, Olanrewaju Fagbohun, appeared to be complicit by refusing to release Mr Okebukola’s file to the University’s Academic Establishment Division, which had requested for it to straighten the age discrepancies therein and then possibly recommend his retirement, which was due by the original date of birth he submitted.
Instead of taking disciplinary action against Mr Okebukola, the university management lied in his defence.
A week after our first publication, we made public a number of documents sent to us by a whistleblower showing how the university’s pro-Chancellor, Adebayo Ninalowo, and Mr Fagbohun illegally withdrew N198 million from the contributory pension account of employees.
The documents, mainly internal memos, revealed that the fund, which was withdrawn under the guise of financing the National University Commission’s (NUC) accreditation of some academic programmes in the university, was mainly used to buy luxury vehicles for members of the institution’s top echelon.
Four months after our reports were published, the governing council of LASU compelled every employee of the institution to sign oaths of secrecy.
The management gave the staff members 24 hours to fill and sign the oath and personally submit them to the Academic Staff Establishment department of the university.
A day before staff members were handed oath forms, the university announced the dismissal of officials of the institution’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for what it termed “unauthorized removal, retention and dissemination or publication of official confidential documents”.
The sacked lecturers include Tony Dansu, Senior Lecturer, Department of Human Kinetics, Sports and Health Education; Adeolu Oyekan, Lecturer 1, Department of Philosophy, and Kemi Abodunrin-Shonibare, an associate professor, Department of African Languages, Literature and Communication Arts.
The trio are the secretary, assistant secretary and treasurer of the LASU chapter of ASUU respectively.
In 2018, the university’s chapter of ASUU petitioned the governing council, accusing the immediate past Registrar, Akinwunmi Lewis, of illegally backdating the professorial promotion of the incumbent vice-chancellor, Mr Fagbohun.
The petition, which was signed by Messrs Dansu and Oyekan in their official capacity, accused Mr Lewis of misinterpreting the decision of the council, which was taken on May 7, 2014, to promote the vice-chancellor by backdating the promotion to 2008.
A call to Action
Coming at a time when the Nigerian government is pursuing a whistleblowing policy, which encourages and rewards civil servants and others who expose financial crimes, PREMIUM TIMES believes the action taken against the lecturers is wrong and one that encourages opacity which in turn encourages corruption.
The sacking of the lecturers and the administering of oaths of secrecy on employees is a slap on the freedom of expression, which universities all over the world are known to promote.
“As a media organisation that pledges to advance the socio-economic wellbeing and rights of the people, promote and enrich their cultural practices, and advocate for best practices, good governance, transparency and human rights, we call on every employee of LASU to resist this attempt by the school management to muzzle their voices,” said PREMIUM TIMES’ Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed.
“Thus, we are inviting members of staff of LASU to submit documents exposing corruption, fraud, abuse of office at the university to our secure whistleblowing platform leaks.ng.
“Leaks.ng allows people to share confidential information of public interest with the Nigeria media. The system has been designed to help you share these materials while protecting your identity, making it difficult for you to be identified as the source of the information.”